One of the beautiful and inspiring things about fynbos“, says the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, “is how it thrives and proliferates in such harsh and adverse conditions. It is subjected to scorching summer droughts, heavy winter downpours, gale force winds, nutrient-poor soils and recurring fires and yet these unkind conditions are the prerequisites of its survival. Fynbos’ fragile beauty and uncontested diversity flies defiantly in the face of natural adversity.” See More from Grootbos. The fierce Cape fires that are ravaging the mountainsides of Cape Town this week, leave enormous trails of devastation. Capetonians are deeply saddened at the sight of beloved landscapes charred bare. People have suffered losses, prime scenic attractions have taken a knock, and our gallant fire fighting teams must surely have protected us at great personal risk. The collective response to this fire disaster has impressed us all, showing us yet again the superfine metal of Capetonians. Also on the plus side of the ordeal are the phenomenal regenerative powers of Cape fynbos …

A path in Silvermine before the 2015 Cape Fire

Fire and the Regenerative Power of Cape Fynbos

How fortunate that evolutionary adaptations have made our exquisite fynbos fire-resilient. Let’s take the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve at Walker Bay in the Western Cape as an example: For many years now, the botanists at Grootbos have documented the species of their beautiful reserve with impressive dedication . In 2006 when a massive fire swept through Grootbos and other parts of the Cape Overberg, we grieved the huge loss of fynbos devoured by the fire. But thanks to the excellent record-keeping of the Groottbos botanists, we learned much about the vastly regenerative capacity of fynbos in the aftermath of fire. Grootbos records revealed that species of fynbos soared in the post-fire period, confirming the beneficial effects of wildfires.

Cape Fynbos Grootbos Nature Reserve
Fynbos-clad mountain slopes are part of the magnificent tapestry in the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, Walker Bay

Fynbos experts regard fire as crucial in resetting the ‘successional clock’ of our Cape fynbos. It recycles nutrients in the soil and stimulates dormant seeds to germinate. Fynboshub tells us that fires are, in fact, more common in fynbos than in any other of the world’s heathlands. Without fire, Farm 215 explains, many fynbos species would become extinct.

Although fynbos is adapted for fires, the timing of burns is nevertheless important. Optimal interludes between fires are 12-18 years for fynbos.

Hello Flame Lilies

The recuperative processes of a fire-charred landscapes are announced first by the spectacular flame lilies. They rise up, miraculously, from the blackened earth within weeks of the burn. They are usually the first signal of beautiful things regenerated … and more to come.

See the #CapeFire Muizenberg Fire Gallery, March 2015

Support Volunteer Wildfire Services

Mail us to book a stay at Grootbos and do a 4×4 flower safari in their majestic fynbos reserve.

Call us on +27 21 797-7122.